Adhesion promotes phase separation in mixed-lipid membranes

Author :V. D. Gordon, M. Deserno, C. M. J. Andrew, S. U. Egelhaaf, and W. C. K. Poon
Publication :EPLA
Volume :84
Number :48003
Pages :1-6
Year :2008

We investigate the interplay of domain formation and adhesion in mixed-lipid
membranes. Giant unilamellar vesicles consisting of two- and three-component lipid mixtures are
studied using confocal fluorescence microscopy. Upon driving the system towards the demixing
transition, phase separation is invariably found to occur first in regions where membranes adhere
to one another, despite identical lipid headgroups and negligible curvature effects. We propose
a simple generic mechanism based on the suppression of thermal shape fluctuations to explain
these observations. Our findings suggest novel possibilities by which biomembranes can create and
utilize lateral lipid heterogeneities.